2014 was a good year for phones. We not only saw solid releases from the usual suspects, but a few of Android’s underdog contenders finally stood up and revealed themselves as solid manufacturers. Sony had the Z2 and Z3 and LG unveiled the G3 to great appreciation. HTC and Motorola continued apace with their respective new approaches and even Apple shook things up by doubling its premium iPhone offering and upping the size of its screens.
It was also a year where the Chinese phone makers started to move in on new territory. Huawei, OPPO and new manufacturer OnePlus released some impressive phones for a lower price than their more-established (in some markets) competitors.
So, what can we expect from 2015 and what do we already know? It’s all rumour and speculation for the most part, but based on past history there are some pretty strong bets we can make.
Tired of waiting around?
If you're up for a new phone already, it's usually best to just go with whatever is on the market. After all, there's always a new device just around the corner, so you may end up delaying indefinitely.
The LG G4 has been officially announced, so we finally know just about everything LG has in store for us. It's already out in Korea, but don't expect it elsewhere until late May or sometime in June.
This new flagship from LG is an evolution of last year's LG G3 design, except this time there's the option to get a plastic, ceramic or leather-backed variant. It's compact, slim and sports tiny bezels around its 5.5 inch 2560 x 1440 display. This means it's a smaller phone than many other devices with same-sized screens, like the iPhone 6 Plus.
Speaking of the display, it's the first big name to hit the market with quantum screen technology. The specifics are complicated, but basically this should mean a much brighter, more-colourful display with more-accurate colours, purer whites and lower energy consumption. It's already being touted by many a reviewer as one of the best screens ever released on any device.
The biggest marketing push LG is making is behind the 16MP camera. LG wants this to be the phone for the professional photographer, or anyone that is serious about their pics. There's an easy-to-use manual mode for those that know what they're doing, the option to shoot in RAW format (photographers will get excited about this), laser-assisted autofocus, and a f/1.8 aperture that should hopefully handle low-light situations admirably.
This looks like another hit for LG. In 2014 the G3 was a surprise winner and one of the best options for an Android handset with its unequalled screen and great camera. With any luck the G4 will continue its legacy and, if LG plays it right, might even sell a good number of units.
Sony Xperia Z4 and Z4 Compact
The Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact were a good team. It’s understandable to assume that the upcoming Z4 will also sport a plucky little sidekick. And wouldn’t you know, they’ve both turned up in leaks. The Z4 was expected as early as January 5 2015 with the Compact may be delayed until as late as Q2. This is no longer the case.
The Z4 gossip now slates it for a Q4 release, possibly in September, with no mention of a Z4 Compact.
The full-sized Z4 has been said to boast both a 5.2 inch 1080p display and a 5.4 inch 2K one. A Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM. Storage is expected to have been doubled to 32GB with a microSD slot for optional expansion.
The smaller of the two, the Compact, is slated to have a 4.7 inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM. This, along with the predicted 32GB of storage and 20.7MP/5MP front/rear camera combo would definitely make it the best Android phone of its size on the market. This rumour is now a little old, so don't wait up based only on these specs.
What we actually know:
Sony has adopted a 6 month release schedule for its phones. This has proven only moderately effective, so the idea that Sony would ditch it and go for a September release date is not totally out of the cards.
The Z1 was announced at IFA on Sept 5 2013, the Z2 on February 24 at MWC in Spain, and the Z3 at IFA again on Sept 4 2014. It's worth noting, Sony did not follow its precise pattern and go for a February 24 announcement.
Going by the last three releases from Sony, we can say with certainty that the next line of Xperia phones will be highly water resistant and probably sport a 20.7MP rear camera. If it hits shelves in Q2 or Q3, expect only minor updates in hardware and software. After all, there’s only so much a company can accomplish in six months. If it's a September release after all, we should see some serious improvements.
OnePlus is a small Chinese company that made waves with its first phone in 2014: the OnePlus One. It was a high-end phone for a very low price (less than half that of the Galaxy S5) that came running Android via Cyanogen, making it highly customisable.
The problem with the OnePlus One, and why you probably haven't heard of it, is that its manufacturer is so small that it could only sell phones by invite. The capacity to churn out devices en masse simply wasn't there.
This year that's expected to be less of a problem, although don't expect massive availability. While OnePlus has reportedly decided to ditch the invite system in 2015, it's unlikely we'll see huge global availability.
Right now everything is rumour. Sources tend to agree that it will come running a powerful Snapdragon 810 processor, putting it in line with other flagships. It's also expected to sport a new user interface called Oxygen, severing ties with Cyanogen.
An interview with OnePlus CEO Carl Pei from PC World puts the OnePlus at a release some time around June.
iPhone 6s and 6 Plus... s
The 6s nad 6 Plus s are expected in September 2015. Nothing right now suggests that it will be anything other than the same incremental upgrade that we've come to expect from Apple's two-year cycle. The only problem currently foreseen is that "6 Plus s" is a bulky name. There's also no guarantee that the larger Plus model iPhone will survive in to a new generation. The affordably-aimed iPhone 5c was never seen or heard from again after its one-time appearance.
Physical design should be identical to the current generation, although there may be differences in colour and highlights.
We hope to see the smaller iPhone 6 make the jump to full 1080p like the 6 Plus, although that seems unlikely. The displays will probably remain the same.
Cameras will be improved, although megapixel (MP) count will likely remain at 8MP. Processing power will make its annual jump and there will be a new version of iOS to accompany the launch.
Right now that's it. No saucy leaks or fancy new bells or whistles. Just another yearly step in the direction of technological improvement.